CESNUR - center for studies on new religions


organized by CESNUR, Center for Religious Studies and Research at Vilnius University, and New Religions Research and Information Center
Vilnius, Lithuania, April 9-12 2003--

Peculiarities of understanding of the Freedom of Conscience and formation of the image of New Religions in the secular common mind of Ukraine (1991 - 2001 years)

by Elena Nykytchenko - assistant of philosophy department of Odesa National Law Academy
A paper presented at the CESNUR 2003 Conference, Vilnius, Lithuania. Preliminary version. Do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.

All my researches proves, that there are two main trends exist in Ukrainian understanding of the Freedom of Conscience and the reflecting of New Religions in this period of history of Ukraine.

The first trend present by the religious study, religious study – pop popular and some another publications that reflected of the contemporary philosophical model of the church – state relations of the democratically countries and based on the fundamental principles of the Freedom of Religion. Those publications also regarded and describe the essential proprieties of New religious on the level achieved in religious study, and determined by the content of the object.

Second trends exist in the materials about New Religions that are published in the most Ukrainian mass media. Those publications formatted negative image of New Religious, having the effect of its diminishing, depriving, lacking of positive character etc., that not follows from the inner essence of this phenomenon. Such image of the New religions that are demonstrated this publications stand on the way of democratization of Ukrainian common mind, first of all in the field of implementation of the Principle of the Freedom of Conscience and Freedom Religion in Ukraine.

In Kiev in 1998 and 2001 at the international conferences dedicated to problems of religious freedom, new religious movements, mass media I carried out expert interrogations of the experts, who where present at this representative forums.

The answers to these questions are characterized by: comprehension of a present condition of the conflicts in a religious sphere; forms of its development, attitude to religions new for Ukraine, (further - NR), features of implementation in country of a freedom of conscience, and other sides of the researched problem.

The obtained data shows general increase of concern on the part of the experts to NR, and it is one more argument for the benefit of a significance of the researched problem.

            On a question: " How would it be possible to describe modern attitude of orthodox churches to nonconventional religiosity? " In 1998 - 80 %, and in 2001 - 82 % of the interrogated persons answered - "enmity", and 32 % of the experts in 1998 and 31 % in 2001 considered essential such characteristic, as "competitiveness". "Dialogue" and " indifferent attitude" have described this situation accordingly about 4 % of the interrogated. Perhaps, it is a unique problem, the answer to which has not changed almost for three years. One of the experts has noted, that on the one side is orthodox "ignorance", and on the other - "on the part of orthodox enmity always overtops, and on the party NR not always".

            Number of those who do not consider any more religious relations as a zone of conflict have insignificantly increased.

            In the answers to a question: " In what measure the solution of problems, connected with conflicts in a religious sphere is actual for Ukraine? ", the experts are already less categorical, than earlier.

In 2001 the experts insist on the necessity of monitoring, constant systematic control behind of the situation in this sphere; they also speak about the necessity of support of public organizations engaging NR; they indicate that the solution of this problem is possible only with elimination of reasons, generating them; they consider, that it is necessary to decide problems in time, not shelving them. Experts mark, that the religious sphere is connected with all others, for example, if the conflicts in economics is minimized, the religious sphere will be more stable; they write that it is necessary to consider these problems not as single ones, but as process, which should be influenced which one, step by step deciding arising problems; they indicate, that hasty of their solving is a very doubtful goal; the majority of the interrogated have paid attention to the complex solution of all problems, which lead to conflicts in this sphere.

            For my research the result of the answers on a question "Do all the religious organizations have identical capabilities for implementation of their purposes? ", is very important as we come to know an expert estimation of state of the religious freedom in Ukraine from the point of view of actual availability or absence of equality of religions in society fixed by the legislation. If in 1998 answered "yes" only 28 % of the polled, in 2001 - 51, 7%. Accordingly "no" (capability is not equal) in 1998 answered 72 %, and in 2001 - 48,3 % of the interrogated. Such change in estimations explains that a part of the experts think, that the capabilities of religions in Ukraine are equal and added, that they mean " equality before the law ". The unanimity to question therefore is understandable: " Is the protectionism implemented in relation to separate religions in Ukraine? " " Yes " answered 68 % in 1998 and 72, 4 % in 2001. Quantity of the experts indicating absence of such policy in Ukraine as a whole has increased but consider it's existing in localities - 24 % in 1998, 27,6 % in 2001. Some people indicate that, in some districts officers adhere to a principle "of statehood of religion". One of the experts has remindedÈ. The church hierarch has said: all religions are equal, but not all are equivalentÈ. This thought is confirmed by interrogated, showing examples of oppressions by state bodies of separate religious organizations. This list of certain oppressions is rather imposing, but in the answers to this question some opposing opinions were made. Here only one contrast: " All nonconventional religions have financial capabilities for propaganda and support of oversea organizations, and the patriots are poorer, therefore and probably inequality in usage of their rights "; " In General religious associations can not have the equal rights, and furthermore in un lawful state ". I can make the conclusion, that in modern conditions of religious pluralism each religion can be accepted in different localities of country both as conventional and nonconventional as NR with negative consequences for it latter. From my point of view, it is obvious, that observance of one of major principles of a freedom of conscience is " equality of religions before the law " the representatives of all religious organizations of country, and not just NR should be interested in the circumstances.

            89 % of the experts in 2001 (about 14 % more than in 1998) have acted against policy of state protectionism of separate religions, and only 6 % in 2001 (accordingly 16 % in 1998) from all quantity of the interrogated, have supported practice of state support of some or that religion in the above mentioned localities of Ukraine. These data can testify to further increase of legal consciousness of the experts as to the general democratic bases of modern society, and it can also be considered as the factor of constraining of a protectionism policy separate religions in future, though among the experts, there are also those who directly analyze and control processes of implementation of policy of a freedom of conscience in Ukraine as a whole and in its regions.

The experience of analysis of religious conflicts has allowed the experts to find some of their reasons. The results of the opinion poll, obtained in 2001, notably contrast with the data of interrogation of 1998. Then the first place among reasons of conflicts in religious environment 88 % of the interrogated named "disputes for the right of possession of cult facilities and property ", and in 2001 - 56,2 %; the second place was - Ç interference of political parties and public organizations ": 60 % in 1998, 65 % in 2001; the third place was - " incompetence of local bodies and authorities " accordingly 56 % and 41, 4 %; the fourth - " general crisis and lawlessness ": 36 % and 24 % and the fifth - " efforts of the other churches diligence to pay of believing other to convert believers into their faith": 32 % and 62%. As we see, weight of wealth caused conflicts has considerably decreased, though the majority of the experts think that even now it plays the main role in this process. But nevertheless the thought predominates that the majority of these conflicts are generated by interference of political and public institutions, and it representatively correlates the number of answers admitting existence of political protectionism of separate religions. In particular, the unity of judgements of the experts has increased and they think that the negative effect on religious life of Ukraine is influenced by substantial existing proselytism, efforts to attract other faith believers to their religious organizations.

During research such question was asked too: " What influences character of a public opinion about NR, to your mind? " 68 % of the interrogated in 1998 and 72 % - in 2001 were sure, that it is "mass media". The percent of those who consider important the influence " of state bodies" has increased - from 12 up to 45 %; " activity of these movements " " fro from 44 up to 51 % and " the position of the experts " (was 5 % - became 17, 2 %). The quantity of the interrogated underlining an effect on opinion about NR has decreased, concerning only the traditional conventional churches. If in 1998 it was considered of great importance by 64 % of the interrogated, in 2001 - 48, 3%. However even such result allows to consider that future attitude of conventional churches to NR will be rather influential during formation of an image of new religions among the population of Ukraine. But, as can be seen from the listed data, the main factor that influences character of opinion of the population about NR, the experts permanently consider mass media. Perhaps, it is necessary for experts to participate in the work of mass media to contribute to formation of an adequate image of NR in public consciousness.

            The necessity of existence of public organizations that would counteract propaganda NR, in 2001 all the experts denied, as well as in 1998 (then 64 %, now 65,5 %). Almost three percents have decreased quantity of those who has another point of view: accordingly from to 20% up to 17, 2%. But even among them, those who consider activity of similar public organizations necessary the majority evaluates it as inefficient: in 1998 - 36 %, in 2001 - 61%. Why such attitude to activity of these organizations dominates, some experts have explained in the remarks: " for individuals, who have suffered because their relatives gave them up for NR (and why only for NR?) It is necessary to create station or posts of the psychological help, as well as for those who have parted with friend and relatives for other reasons. "Such organizations can be used by churches, politicians, government bodies and so on"; " The similar now existing public organizations at 90 % of their activity break a freedom of conscience "; " they are gathering conventions of the people, who shift the responsibility from themselves and relatives to NR"; " activity of public organizations within the framework of the law is business of these organizations "; " the creation of such organizations should be concrete, against the destructive cults, depending on character of activity of those religions, against which they are directed "; " in general, the activity of such organizations is possible, but not necessary indispensable "; " to create these organizations by principle " against whom " is it vain, if not harmful except when their purpose is preventive measures of offences ".

Certainly, under the data, which were obtained only in two expert interrogations is difficult to make final conclusions on all borne for discussion of the experts problems. But some tendencies in the answers can be defined. At first, it is the unity of the experts in comprehension of problems, which can arise in religious environment, and in ways of their possible solution. Secondly, the views become more democratic among representatives of the state and administrative bodies and journalists on events happening in religious life of the country. Thirdly, these data testify, if not about fading of strength in religious sphere, then at any rate, about less sharpness of its perception among those who directly study the situation or participate in an adjustment of conflicts in religious environment. In fourth, considerable proportion of the experts, link the destiny of the solution of these conflicts with change of a public situation as a whole: by decrease of conflict atmosphere in the state.

These interrogations allow confirming the thesis about a general tendency of improvement of the religious situation in the country by means of a decreasing a level of conflicts in the religious sphere.

From all mass media I select for research the newspaper publications during last five years. It was stipulated by the fact that other of mass media: television, radio - for this time have not created any program concerning NR, which could have a public resonance or a systematic character of the reference to this problem could envelop an audience, more broad, than readers. Besides the speeches on a television and radio concerning NR in comparison with the newspaper publications wore secondary character (availability of a video and soundtracks added a little). I do not speak about news, though their position in researched subject deserves attention, as it shapes the audience's appropriate perception of NR as a negative phenomenon as a whole (for example, about further destiny of Big White Brotherhood and Aum - Sinrecer, about suicides in oversea NR etc.). Any film is not known, the publicity and documentary works by modern society moviemakers of Russia and Ukraine about NR are very rare. The Internet, at which almost all NR are present, has not broad audience yet comparable on popularity with other mass media in Ukraine, and consequently, at least, during the past years, has not become yet an object of analysis within the framework of sociology of religion and in sociology of NR in particular.

It is possible to make a conclusion, that in a modern society press there is possibility to representatives NR to state their personal views directly to reader who receives the information about them, mainly, indirect or in retelling.

It is possible to reduce all negative characteristics of NR, used in the publications of mass media to four groups of the charges as follows:

1.Committing of deliberate crimes (including very grave).

2. The infringement on freedom and health of the adherents.

3. Tendency to distract of the bases of statehood, social system, religious and cultural traditions.

4. Diverse offences, which negatively characterize specificity of organizational structure, ceremonial experience and cult practice of NR.

The results of next my investigation is dedicate to problem of religious tolerance in modern Ukraine should me demonstrate such conclusions:

á the answers on a scale Bogarduse testify, that the attitude to the atheists is much better, than to representatives of religious minority. The citizens of Ukraine fall into to representatives of nonconventional religious organizations and Muslims most worse.

á the indexes of a social distance describing character interconfessional of relations, in the Odessa area are lower, than on Ukraine as a whole, that can testify to a higher tolerance of the inhabitants of area in an orb interconfessional relations.

á more tolerable attitude to the Muslims, Jews and representatives of nonconventional religions is characteristic for Southern region. It is possible to suspect, that somewhat it is connected to a high share in this locale of the atheists and unbelievers, which one demonstrate more tolerable relation to religious minority. To features of different locales it is possible to relate also much more untolerable relation to the atheists in West of Ukraine as contrasted to by remaining regions.

á the least tolerance to representatives of religious minority is demonstrated by representatives of a high age-grade. For the city dwellers is characteristic more high level interconfessional of a tolerance as contrasted to by inhabitants of agricultural terrain.

á Appears the tendency of a decrease of a level of a tolerance in relation to religious minority and to the atheists with a decrease of a level of education of the respondents.

á Untolerable relation to representatives of religious minority to the greatest degree is characteristic for the respondents, which attitude to Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and to the atheists - among inhering to Ukrainian Greek " Cat Catholics

Church. The most tolerable relation to religious minority is characteristic for the believer, not of inhering to one church, and also for the atheists.

The formation of a negative stereotype of perception NR in public consciousness, formation of their negative image in mass media, insults feelings of believers of these religious communities, creates hate on religious ground, testifies to ignorance of some writers, and sometime it lies; breaks the legislation of a freedom of conscience and speech; represents definite threat to democratization and tolerance in the Ukrainian society, that is why is a not less dangerous social phenomenon, than alleged threat from propaganda of some NR.

These investigations were made with supporting by the "Program on Global Security and Sustainability's Research and Writing Initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation" and were presented with supporting of the "East-East" program.

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